AA isn’t the Only Way

I’ll get some stick for writing this but last time I checked I was allowed to share my opinion so here goes!

I’m getting fed up with the loud minority in the Recovery World who continue to force their archaic views on others recovering from alcohol and drug dependency. I see it every day on social media where I spend a fair chunk of my time sharing Happy Daddy’s story.

The minority in question are from the Alcoholics Anonymous crowd and tend to be what I would describe as old timers with a number of years or decades under their belt. They become very defensive if you ask questions about AA that could be seen as ‘challenging‘ such as the religious aspect, sponsors, the steps, etc.

I have no axe to grind with AA and as I’ve said previously, I attended meetings and purchased the Big Book earlier in my Sobriety but around the same time I explored Rational Recovery (AVRT) too and it was this approach to abstinence that appealed more to me. I know people who have used / are still members of AA and they are good people with a very pragmatic view, like mine to sobriety.

What I struggle with is the ignorance towards anybody who dares to ask questions or share a path that isn’t the same as their own. These are probably the same people who like to argue about politics, sport and music so I won’t blame the game (in this case AA) – I’ll blame the player!

Every time I’ve written a Blog post which refers to AA in the title you can guarantee I’ll get some negative responses from old timers who take exception to me writing about AA ‘when I’m not a member’. Some recent stuff includes;

“Why are you even writing about AA when you’ve chosen a different programme?” (The Blog post in question was giving the reader the difference between AA & AVRT not dismissing one)

“The only reason AA didn’t work for you is because you didn’t work the 12-Steps” (I’ve never said AA doesn’t work, I just found something different that works for me)

It tends to follow this repetitive theme along with the odd insult or abuse (but that’s just social media in general I suppose!) and it’s not something that really bothers me. As I said at the start of this post, it’s a minority but they have the platform as I do and they have the right to speak to me whether its nice or not. I have a block button I guess!

I’m currently reading Jack Trimpey’s pre-cursor to his successful book Rational Recovery and he doesn’t really help the cause either. The Small Book goes along way to aggravating the AA World by dissecting and pulling apart the twelve steps and other passages of writing that have been published from the organisation. He’s somebody who clearly didn’t have a good experience with AA and that lead him to setting up Rational Recovery in America but the constant swipes at AA isn’t important to me as a reader and I find it annoying. He throws in regular caveats that he has no ill feelings towards AA and it has worked for people but this tends to be after several pages of anti-AA.

My stance is pretty simple. Find what works for you and if you remain sober you are in control of the next important part – learning to love yourself and living your best life. There are clearly a lot of people out there (I’ve described some in this Blog post) who might be sober but they aren’t particularly happy or pleasant with others. I have AVRT to use as a tool when I need it to stay off the alcohol but I put a lot of time into ME too and that’s goes beyond my relationship with alcohol. I may have existed for alcohol in the past but I won’t exist solely as an abstainer. It’s just a small part of me.


The Recovery Programme I’m following is known as Rational Recovery but many will refer to it as AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) which is the nuts and bolts of how this approach to overcoming addiction works.

I’ve had a few people ask me how it works and quite often when we discuss this pathway they are surprised there is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous out there. All we ever see portrayed in film, TV and the media is this vision of an alcoholic sitting in a community hall with a group of other ‘drunks’ sharing their story. AA is recovery to a lot of people. This is still the most common and most used programme globally but it’s just never quite clicked for me, and as I’ve since found – many others too.

So first off, I have no issue with AA and in fact there are many elements to it which I like but I’m of the opinion I need to give my all to something as significant as my abstinence and I never fully believed in the words of the AA’s big book.

So what is the difference between AVRT & AA?

Firstly, the Twelve Steps of AA are presented as a suggested self-improvement program of initially admitting powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledging its damage, the listing of and striving to correct personal failings and the making of amends for past misdeeds. To stay recovered, AA suggests maintained spiritual development through the Steps.

The Rational Recovery program is based on recognising and defeating the “addictive voice” (internal thoughts that support self-intoxication) and dissociation from addictive impulses. The specific technique of Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT) refers to the practice of objectively recognising any mental thoughts that support or suggest substance use as AV (addictive voice). This passive recognition allows you to realise that you need not do what the AV says, but can effortlessly abstain.

So after reading both of those short statements you can already see a significant difference. The overarching aim is the same (abstinence) but the approach and how we go about it differ massively.

With Rational Recovery there is “no better time to construct a “big plan” to abstain from drinking/using than now” and that AA’s idea of “one day at a time” is contradictory to never using again. Rational Recovery says, if AA proposes that you are never going to drink again, then there isn’t a reason to keep track of time. One day at a time (something I based my recovery on once over) works for so many though and by breaking down sobriety into daily goals, it can make the journey feel so much less overwhelming. So I do get it!

Rational Recovery does not regard alcoholism as a disease, but a voluntary behavior.

Rational Recovery discourages adoption of the forever “recovering” drunk persona.

There are no Rational Recovery recovery groups and whilst I personally connect with others using the programme via social media, it isn’t group or meeting led. From what I’ve read so far in the book we are encouraged not to surround ourselves with others in recovery. (The opposite to AA).

Finally, there are no discrete steps and no consideration of religious matters, or requirement to put one’s trust in any sort of higher power, whether it be a god or a group of people – something AA is based on.

I hope that by providing a brief breakdown of the two programmes it’s a little clearer as to how both work. I haven’t written this post to slag one or the other off and I have no interest in causing divide in the recovery community. I have borrowed alot of the above words from the horse’s mouth – it’s not my opinion, it’s what the programmes say about themselves.

Can you use AA & AVRT together?

I couldn’t. Or I’ve certainly been unable to up to now. I find that they are too far apart with their approaches that it is very difficult and counterproductive to commit to both. Commit is the key for me and if I’m giving my all to the ‘Big Plan’ how can I also commit to the twelve steps? It’s only my opinion but for me, you should explore both by all means but then choose the one that fits for you.

I’ll be back with more on this subject because it does run deeper than the brief synopsis I’ve given today but I hope you’ve found this post of interest as a starter for ten.